Explosion kills Maine fire fighter, injures six others, US
A powerful propane explosion levelled a recently opened non-profit centre after crews arrived to investigate the smell of gas on Monday morning, 16 September 2019, killing one fire fighter and injuring six other people, including fellow fire fighters, officials said. The building had been evacuated after the gas was detected, said Farmington Town Selectman Scott Landry. One fire fighter was killed. The blast injured four other fire fighters, including the town’s fire chief; one employee of the non-profit centre and one ambulance worker, officials said. The blast, around 8h30, was heard for miles and had enough force to blow a vehicle across an intersection. Paper, insulation and building debris rained on the area.
Farmington Fire Captain, 68-year-old Michael Bell, was named as the fire fighter killed in the blast. Bell was a 30 year member of the department. The six other fire fighters who sustained injuries include:
62-year-old Terry Bell, who is the fire chief and the brother of the fallen fire fighter.
40-year-old Captain Timothy Hardy was also hurt.
37-year-old Captain Scott Baxter and his father, 64 year old fire fighter Theodore Baxter sustained injuries while on the call.
24-year-old fire fighter Joseph Hastings was taken to the hospital as well.
Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross was treated and released from Franklin Memorial Hospital.
Chief Bell, Hardy, Scott Baxter and Hastings are full time members of the fire department. Michael Bell, Theodore Baxter and Ross are part time fire fighters.
All that was left of the two-storey building housing LEAP Inc, which serves people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, was a hole, Landry said. “It’s a war zone. It’s just a mess,” said Landry, who is also a state representative. “The building is gone.”
Kim Hilton, who works in the admissions department at the nearby University of Maine at Farmington, said there were scary moments when the blast occurred. “It felt like someone hit our building with a vehicle,” she said.
The ambulance worker was treated and released, state public safety spokesman Steve McCausland said. The other five were taken to regional trauma centres, including the state’s largest hospital, Maine Medical Centre in Portland, and remained hospitalised on Monday afternoon, officials said. Their conditions weren’t released.
Governor Janet Mills, who is from Farmington and whose office said she knew the fire fighter who died, said on Twitter that the state fire marshal’s office will investigate.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of as much as we possibly can to protect this community, to protect all other communities and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
The 40-by-60-foot (12-by-18-metre), two-storey building, which served as the administrative offices for LEAP, opened eight to 10 weeks ago and wasn’t yet fully staffed, Landry said.
The smell of gas was detected and the building evacuated before most workers had arrived for the day, he said.
Farmington is about 70 miles north of Portland.
Source: The Associated Press